Card and the Author Function
Posted by aahabershaw
I have been avoiding the uproar surrounding Orson Scott Card and his recent tirades against gay people, the government, liberals, and so on. I have been doing this because I don’t really intend this blog to be a place to debate politics or current events. However, it comes to pass that I feel no self-respecting science fiction author, scholar, and blogger can avoid having the discussion without ignoring a rather large elephant in the room. So, if you don’t want to hear me talk about homosexuality and Orson Scott Card, best tune out now.
First off, let’s set the stage. You have a few things to read right now. First is this opinion by Card written in the Deseret News wherein he advances the self-evidently ridiculous notion that gay marriage is the end of democracy and that he believes:
Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Secondly, there is this semi-incoherent rant on Card’s blog wherein he discusses how Obama is a dictator and so on and so forth. Here he says:
Obama will claim we need a national police force in order to fight terrorism and crime. The Boston bombing is a useful start, especially when combined with random shootings by crazy people.
Where will he get his “national police”? The NaPo will be recruited from “young out-of-work urban men” and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities.
In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.
Instead of doing drive-by shootings in their own neighborhoods, these young thugs will do beatings and murders of people “trying to escape” — people who all seem to be leaders and members of groups that oppose Obama.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. That isn’t homophobia – it’s good old-fashioned racism at its most idiotic. As a rule, anytime you hear a conservative (or liberal) nut-job using the Boston Bombings to justify their fanciful worldview, you need to imagine me gut-punching them and then pushing them into a tub of cat urine. The Boston Bombings are intensely personal for me, and anyone who exploits them for gain is my avowed enemy. The above paragraphs, more than any other reason, is why I’m writing this post now.
Why have I avoided it? Well, apart from it being a moderate divergence from the purpose of this blog, there is the fact that Mr. Card is entitled to his opinion. His stupid, hateful, foolish opinion is his right to maintain, and as long as he hurts nobody but himself with it, what do I care? When you start to discuss overthrowing the government, though, or when you begin exploiting the blood of innocent people to justify hate-speech, then you deserve what ire you get. Free speech, of course, works both ways, as does the freedom to not attend a movie.
The third thing you need to read is this analysis of Card’s work by Kate Bonin, which is a truly fascinating and engaging article which explores the images of homosexuality in Card’s fiction. This essay does, in a lot of ways, explain much of Card’s ranting. In his tirade against gay marriage, Card seems to imply that, if there is no difference between gay and straight marriage, everybody is going to abandon their straight partners and dive right in to gay sex. This is both (a) obviously ridiculous and (b) psychologically interesting. Bonin stresses, of course, that she is not diagnosing Card’s sexuality through his fiction. Neither am I, no more than I would say Robert Heinlein is a fascist from reading Starship Troopers. One cannot avoid the speculation, though, nor ignore Bonin’s well-argued reading of the books.
The really sad thing about all of this is that I still love Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. I do and will continue to advise friends of mine to read them, as they are wonderful novels. A lot of people will now scratch their heads at this and say to me ‘isn’t he that bigoted homophobe crazy-person?’ My answer will have to be ‘yes’, sadly. The second part of the answer, though, is that it doesn’t matter.
<I will pause here for your outrage.>
All done? Okay, bear with me here: Artists are separate entities from their works. If I tell you Martin Heidegger was a pin-wearing member of the Nazi Party in Germany and actively supported their goals (he did), does that invalidate his philosophy as relevant to the post-modern world? Obviously not. If you learn that Ernest Hemingway was an alcoholic, misogynistic jerk, does that mean The Old Man and the Sea loses artistic merit? If Mel Gibson is an anti-Semitic, violent jackass, does that mean you can’t like Braveheart anymore? No, it does not.
Just so with Card. Ender’s Game is a great novel that deals with a lot of things beyond Card’s problems with homosexuals (and, to be honest, Ender’s Game barely touches on such things). It is about what we do to our children to make them like ourselves. It’s about how a culture of fear warps minds and leads to further atrocities. It’s about a lot of pertinent, interesting things regarding the human condition, and is worth the read. Speaker for the Dead is a better book by half, too.
It is a shame that Card’s ranting will drive people away from his art, which has no connection to him in the same way that our children do not. Did we raise them? Did we set them upon the world? Yes. Are they responsible for our sins? They should not be. They are living things, beyond our control and outside of our influence once released on their own.
So, in conclusion, feel free to boycott Ender’s Game. I probably won’t see it either, though I hardly ever get to see anything anyway, so that doesn’t mean much. What I would encourage you to remember, however, is a few lines from Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.